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Westport 175 would be a big event for the neighborhood, both geographically and logistically. The free activities were set to take place at seven locations. The church would be the kid-friendly spot, with its craft tables, a G-rated haunted house and a book giveaway. A covered wagon would give rides between the Harris-Kearney House and the Buzzard Beach parking lot. Guided walking tours, music and dance demonstrations, and a brown-and-white ox would add to the festivities.
By scattering the activities, organizers wanted to highlight the walkability factor and the neighborhood aspect of Westport. They also saw this as a chance to heal their own border rift — the one caused by Broadway cutting the neighborhood into an eastern half and a western half.
Toward the end of the meeting, the discussion turned to the covered wagon. Richard Heaviland, the owner of Frame Works, who sports a long, almost rectangular beard, was concerned about how he and his fellow re-enactors were going to rob the wagon. One problem was that Westport Road wasn't going to be blocked off, so he was worried that the robberies would stop traffic.
"Lalalala," said Jamie Rich of the Westport Center for the Arts. Rich, a friendly, funny guy, pretended that he didn't want to hear about the robbery. "I'm just so afraid some lady will go like ... " he gave an exaggerated gasp while clutching his heart. "Try to figure it out, please."
Heaviland outlined two possible robbery skits. One involved a Union soldier dragging a border ruffian off the wagon. In the other one, they would hide a bag of money under a seat.
"I think I'm more concerned about firing weapons at people," said one of the re-enactors, who wore a navy military coat with his jeans. Even though the re-enactors used blanks, they still needed a safe distance of 15–20 feet for a pistol or 50 feet for a rifle.
Someone brought up the possibility of robbing the wagon at both of its stops. But Heaviland worried that dragging the guys between both stops over and over again would be too time-consuming.
On the other side of the table sat Sean Richardson, who wore a black wool coat. The handsome 25-year-old, who volunteers with the Harris-Kearney House, just started getting into the world of living history. Westport 175 was going to be his second event.
Richardson grew up in San Diego but moved to Lawrence to play baseball at the University of Kansas. After he graduated in summer 2007, he took a job in Overland Park as a financial adviser. Last spring, he and his girlfriend moved to Westport, where she had grown up, and he started learning more about local history. He joined the Westport Historical Society, where he met Heaviland.
Richardson has always been interested in history. Richardson's parents had taken him and his siblings to places like Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg when he was growing up. When he moved to Lawrence, which he calls a "history hot spot," his interest grew. "Being at KU helped out a lot. Just going up and down Mass Street — a lot of the buildings are over 100 years old."
For graduation, he took a trip to Gettysburg, where his interest in the Civil War intensified. Then his uncle in New Jersey, a longtime Revolutionary War re-enactor, encouraged him to give re-enactments a shot. So last summer, Richardson and his uncle went back to Gettysburg, where they spent a weekend re-creating battles.
They camped out and dressed in period clothing. They walked through the streets and saw the hallowed grounds. For Richardson, the best thing was being around so many people who knew so many details about the Civil War — personal stories that he didn't read about in books. "All these guys were just a wealth of knowledge. Just listening to them talk was great," he said.